The new censure, approved by the City Commission in February, allows commissioners to fine non-compliant businesses. Previously, the commission could only warn a business, suspend its alcohol license or even revoke it, said City Clerk Joe Smith.
“A lot of times, it causes major hardships to the business itself, as well as the other employees if they have to close,” said Mayor Evie McNiece of license suspensions.
That potential hardship changed when the commission approved the new punishment Feb. 11.
The most common violation is selling alcohol to someone younger than 21, though noise complaints have brought business owners before the city’s Alcohol Control Commission as well, Smith added. “It’s open ended,” Smith told ACC members at their Monday meeting. “Whatever fine you think is appropriate, you can recommend.”
The commission ultimately decides what fine, if any, to impose. The maximum is $2,000, Smith said.
Smith said business owners have asked if they could avoid a suspension of their alcohol licenses. Before February’s change in the law, city leaders had no other option.
“Time will tell if you want to use that and to what degree,” he added.
When a business is accused of violating the city’s alcohol laws, its owner appears before the ACC for a hearing. Police stings are the cause of most of the hearings, Smith said.
A May 2012 sting led to 16 hearings. Three hearings happened in October, making a total of 19 for the year, Smith said.